OIG OKs Hospital to Provide Free Electronic Interface to Physicians

HHS' Office of Inspector General has issued an advisory opinion in response to a hospital's proposal to offer community physicians and practices free access to an electronic interface, through which they could transmit orders for certain services from the hospital.

The hospital submitted its request to determine whether the proposed arrangement would violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

Under the arrangement, the hospital would offer free access to the interface to all physicians who requested it. Those providers would then use the interface to transmit orders for laboratory and diagnostic services from the hospital and to receive the results of those services.

Additionally, the hospital would also provide support services necessary to maintain the interface, such as software updates. Those services would be provided by a contractor. Physicians would still be required to acquire, install and maintain the electronic medical record that allows them to communicate with the hospital through the interface.

The OIG concluded the hospital's proposed arrangement would not generate prohibited kickbacks under the federal statute.

"Under the proposed arrangement, interface access would have no independent value to the physicians apart from the services the requestor provides," according to the OIG opinion. "Accordingly, we conclude that the proposed arrangement, would not, under these particular facts, implicate the antikickback statute."

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